Camping is an excellent way to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, and car camping is a great alternative to backpacking that allows you to bring significantly more gear and creature comforts with you into your chosen wilderness retreat. To get the most out of car camping, here are a few things to think about before you head out on your next adventure.
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Get Offroad Ready
Even if you have a 4×4 sport utility vehicle, it may not necessarily come pre-equipped for handling the rough terrain you may need to cross to get to some of the best campsites. Some national parks and monuments offer camping in remote areas that can only be accessed by high-clearance vehicles on roads that can become nearly impassable in the event in inclement weather. These roads are often attended by rangers who will turn you away if they feel your car isn’t up to the task of safely navigating the terrain.
Consider add-ons like aftermarket body shocks to help smooth out a bumpy ride or winches to pull yourself out of any unexpected pits you could stumble across. Making sure your vehicle has an onboard satellite navigation system could be important when navigating the backcountry with little to no cellular service. You may be going far from where roadside assistance can lend a hand, so backup batteries and jumpstarting kits are critical to have on-hand. Even the basics, like your brakes and tires, may not be up to the challenges of off-roading if you’re working with what comes standard on most vehicles. These kinds of upgrades are readily available, but should be installed by professionals like Offroad Power Products to ensure proper function.
Sure, you could just pile your tents into the trunk with the rest of your gear, but doing so ignores some great possibilities for sleeping in comfort that are only possible with car camping. Rooftop tents have been popular in Australia for decades, but have only recently started to gain traction stateside. As their name suggests, these tents mount to your vehicle’s roof rack, so no more sleeping on the ground. Many of these tents even come with built-in mattresses for increased comfort. Before purchasing a rooftop tent, you’ll want to make sure that your vehicle’s roof rack is rated to handle the tent’s weight.
Another option is to sleep in your car itself using air mattresses that are built to fit either in the trunk or across the back seats of your car. Some companies offer generic mattresses that should fit most vehicles, while others offer specialized mattresses engineered to fit into specific makes and models. Sleeping in your car could provide increased protection from the elements, making it a perfect option for winter camping or if the weather for your trip is looking a little dodgy. However, this option takes over space some might want to use to store food and equipment, so it’s best for people with alternative storage such as roof or hitch cargo carriers.
Cook Up a Storm
If you’re backpacking you need to be able to carry everything you need on your back, which can really limit your options when it comes to outdoor cooking. Take advantage of the freedom car camping provides to bring a gourmet kitchen to the great outdoors. Car camping means you can bring a larger camp stove or even a grill, giving you more flexibility than a single burner backpackers’ stove. It also opens up the option to bring a large cooler, meaning you can eat more than just freeze-dried camper meals to refuel after a long day of exploring. Perhaps the best thing about car camping is not having to carry heavy gallons of water from a fill station to your site or worrying about sanitizing water from streams or lakes near your site. You can simply pack your water storage unit into the trunk and fill up at home or at the campground.
Before you leave, take time to look up some camping recipes or how to adapt some of your favorites from home. With the right camp kitchen, nothing should be out of your culinary reach.
As great as it is to escape from it all, most of us aren’t leaving our phones and other devices behind when we head out into the woods. If you’re backpacking staying charged can mean relying on subpar solar panels or taking up precious pack space to bring along battery backups. With the extra space provided by taking your vehicle with you, you may want to think about investing in a power station to keep all your personal electronics powered up. It’s always best to fully charge your power station before leaving for your trip, then to top it off as needed by plugging it in to your vehicle if you go on a drive.
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One of the most parts of camping can be cleaning up after a long day on the trail. When backpacking, this can mean a cold dip in a lake or a long line-up at the pay-per-minutes showers available at the campground. While there are many outdoor shower options available, some of the best for providing hot water with plenty of pressure behind it are uniquely available to car campers. Most units mount to your vehicle’s roof and take advantage of the sun to heat the water for your shower. You can either fill up with water at home before leaving for your trip, or at water stations found at campgrounds and visitors centers.
Lock It Down
While most people would love to think that their belongings are safe at the campsite when they’re off adventuring, this isn’t always the case. Having your vehicle nearby means you have a much more secure place to store valuables when you’re away from your campsite than just a tent. It also provides a better animal-proof storage solution than hanging food from trees.
If you’re looking to get out and explore the wilderness, but aren’t interested in counting every ounce of food and equipment you want to bring with you, car camping can give you exactly the freedom you’re looking for.